March 21, 2023

‘Democracy losses its essence when votes don’t count’


John Alechenu, Abuja

A coalition of civil society groups under the aegis of Free Nigeria Movement has expressed sadness that the promise of credible elections given to citizens by the Independent National Electoral Commission, prior to the 2023 general elections was betrayed in the most brazen manner.

Convener of the coalition, Dr. Moses Ogidi Paul, said this after a peaceful protest embarked upon by the group in Abuja, on Tuesday.

According to him, the protest was organised to draw attention to the betrayal of public trust by those on whom Nigerians invested so much trust and resources ahead of the much anticipated election.

He said, “Today, we mourn the demise of credibility, the rape of trust, the abuse of will. Today, we stand in the ruins of transparency, on the embalming table of inclusion, equity and accountability.

“We are voices, toneless, stripped of the music of choice. Today, we are Nigerians, broken, calling on INEC to count our votes.

“On the 25th of February, 2023, Nigerians trooped to their polling units with one mission, “to cast their votes and choose their next leaders.”
“They qualified for this exercise by participating in the yearlong Continuous Voter Registration which witnessed an unprecedented spike as has never been seen in any election since 1999.
“Months later, they returned to collect their Permanent Voters Cards and went home with a commitment to participate and engage with the process.
“The chain of apathy was broken, tossed to the belly of oblivion. We were free, free to experience the full potential of our Nigerianness.
“Our binding lines were unbroken: in ideology, they held us together; in trust, the washed us like water; in truth, they kept us alive. We breathed the full breathe of what being citizens should be in a progressive secular society.
“So, when the day finally arrived, we had no doubt in our hearts, in the portion that always questions, truths that our votes must count. But nothing could bolster our belief like the assurances by Mr. President, Muhammadu Buhari, and INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud.
“Recall that a little over a year ago, President Muhammadu Buhari appended his signature to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022.
“The fanfare that greeted that appendment can well claim recognition as one of the most colourful in our recent history due to its unbroken allegiance to the Nigerian spirit.
“ On that day, we were neither Igbo, Hausa nor Yoruba. We were not Efik, Tiv, or Urhobo. No, we were not Gbagyi, Kanuri or Ijaw. On that day, we were Nigerians full of the positive energies of our land.”
He further said “I hate to announce that today in the heart of some, all this has gone to waste. You may have seen the video of the diasporan who tore his passport. Some other Nigerians have done same to the fabric of identity because INEC through Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud chose to silence their voice.

“So I ask, “What is the value of democracy if the process that recruits its leaders consistently lacks credibility?” Perhaps, the answer is at the International Conference Center where Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud began, sustained and concluded collation and declaration of a candidate as winner of the presidential election based on falsehood contravening its guidelines and the Electoral Act.

“It is most disturbing that this was done in the full glare of the world. Never has our democracy been so sorely abused by any citizen in either public or private service. Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud has raised a bar in impunity that will cost our country many years of electoral excellence to correct.

“This was not the electronic transmission he promised Nigerians and the world at Chatham House. Prof. Yakubu Mahmoud has lied to Nigerians and abused our right of choice. We pass a vote of no confidence and call for his immediate sack and prosecution.

“We cannot afford to continue the culture of performing lawlessness without consequences. We are as strong as our laws and as tall as our institutions. We cannot afford to descend any lower than this.

“To INEC’s president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, we say, “power belongs to the people and anyone who must wield it must qualify to receive it from the people.”
“This is the only way that power can be held at their behest and behalf. A turbulent wind of violence, voter suppression, thuggery and ethnic bigotry blew you to your current status. This is alien to the character of a true Nigerian leader and therefore makes you ineligible.
“We dare say that until a credible process clears you as deserving, you are not our president – elect or president. We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari whose legacy currently hangs loose to immediately initiate processes and procedures that will bring Nigeria under the control of an interim government pending the resolution of all litigations pertaining to the conduct of the February 25 presidential election.
“Our country needs healing. It will be counterproductive to allow a man whose victory is utterly distrusted the opportunity of becoming the number one citizen. We cannot grow our democracy on falsehood and suspicion.
“The holes in our national fabric must be woven shut. One way is to immediately establish a Truth and Reconciliation Committee in Lagos State and other flashpoints of voter intimidation and violence during the presidential, national assembly, governorship and state assembly elections.
“ This will help build trust, confidence and further ethnic cooperation among Nigerians.
As concerned citizens, we believe that our country is destined for greatness and are hopeful that in no distant time, our faith will nudge our dreams to reality.
“This is our prayer as we nurse the bruises of hope. For though they force us to precipice, we will not curse our country or stand by those who curse it.
“ We will not steal from our country whatever treasures it possesses in dignity. We will hold on to the promise of unity and faith, peace and progress.”